Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hey, customer! Try on my apron, and then complain.

Any one who has worked in the service industry gets it: It’s tough waiting tables. But if you have common sense, or any compassion, as a customer, you should realize that as well.

Not only do servers make minimum wage (and that’s minimum wage for servers, a whopping $4.85 here in Chicago), we don’t get benefits. We completely rely on gratuity.

I’ve heard people say that any idiot can wait on a table, but I’ve worked side-by-side with otherwise smart, competent people who can’t do it. They get overwhelmed. They forget who needed another Bud Light and who asked for a side of ranch. Or they crumble when an angry customer yells at them because his burger wasn’t cooked exactly right, or her vodka tonic doesn’t have an extra lime in it. And people do yell at you. People will be mean. They won’t say please or thank you. They won’t make eye contact with you. Even worse, they’ll look right through you.

As a server, I’ve been yelled at, cursed at, and treated like a complete piece of crap. I’ve had to jump out of the way of a drunken woman vomiting. I’ve been grabbed by a stranger and kissed on the mouth. (And those two incidents happened during the same shift.) I’ve been asked inappropriate questions, ogled, and hit on the ass. I’ve been warned to “be careful walking to my car” after my shift. I’ve mopped up a kid’s vomit without so much as a “thank you” from his parents.

And when many nights, you head home with your feet and back aching, and less than 100 bucks in your pocket, this is quite a lot to take. I think it would be a lot to take if I made $1,000 every night.

Yet, still, I work my ass off to keep a smile on my face, to say “thank you,” to get people’s food and drinks ordered correctly and quickly, and to bite my tongue when I’m insulted or mistreated. Don’t forget: the customer is always right.

So when I read an article like this one, a piece by David Sax in the New York Times, it makes me furious. An excerpt:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The fact is you're a shocking wreck.

by Franz Wright

You do look a little ill.

But we can do something about that, now.

Can’t we.

The fact is you’re a shocking wreck.

Do you hear me.

You aren’t all alone.

And you could use some help today, packing in the
dark, boarding buses north, putting the seat back and
grinning with terror flowing over your legs through
your fingers and hair . . .

I was always waiting, always here.

Know anyone else who can say that.

My advice to you is think of her for what she is:
one more name cut in the scar of your tongue.

What was it you said, “To rather be harmed than
harm, is not abject.”


Can we be leaving now.

We like bus trips, remember. Together

we could watch these winter fields slip past, and
never care again,

think of it.

I don’t have to be anywhere.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Waitress

The Music Plays and You Display Your Heart

I love how music can bring you right back to not only a specific time, but a specific moment, or a specific feeling. Even when the memory or the feeling is painful, it becomes therapeutic, listening to a song, revisiting it.

It’s like how I can’t hear Norah Jones’s first album, “Come Away With Me,” without immediately being in the back seat of my brother’s car the day after my mom died. We were driving to Bloomington to get clothes from my dorm. Funeral clothes. I think I was in the back because our cousin Micaela had rode with us. I don’t know. Certain details, you lose. But what I know is this: I pressed my forehead against the tiny window of Jay’s Cavalier, and lyrics like, “My heart is drenched in wine/You’ll be on my mind forever,” burned into my brain. I felt too empty to cry. I loved it. I hated it. I knew my mom would love it, and that she would never, never hear it. The album was about her. She was in every line.

So even though hearing “Don’t Know Why” or “The Long Day is Over” doesn’t send a searing pain through me like it did on that first listen, I still think about it. And now, it’s soothing. Maybe, somewhere, somehow, my mom can hear it. Mostly, I think about that heartbroken girl in the backseat, and I wish I could tell her everything was going to be okay.

Then there’s Ben Harper’s “Diamonds on the Inside” album. I promise you, every time I listen to that title track, suddenly it’s the summer of 2003, and I’m back at home after my first year at IU, sweeping the kitchen floor while Dad worked in the yard outside. 19, back at home, motherless and heartsick—I was quite a pill for my poor father to live with. But that evening, “Diamonds on the Inside” came on, and I swept the floor, singing under my breath, nodding my head. It was exactly what it needed to be.

And don’t even get me started on the following song, “Touch From Your Lust”—that just brings up all sorts of 19-year-old angst. I didn’t know what the hell Ben Harper meant when he sang “I’ll be your country gentleman/ if you will be my Mason-Dixon queen” but I knew it spoke to whatever I was feeling, right at that moment.

What the hell? Why do I remember sweeping the kitchen floor and listening to Ben Harper?

That’s music for you. I could go on. And on. And on. (I’ll try to refrain, though.)

Tonight, maybe because I sorta sound like Tom Waits with my ridiculous raspy bronchitis voice (hot, right? gross), I suddenly had this urge to listen to his album “Closing Time,” an album I haven’t listened to in years.

The cd was somewhere in my apartment, I knew it. But I also knew that if I dug around to look for it, I was going to have a coughing fit, and I’m getting a little tired of coughing fits. Luckily for me, there’s this magical device called the Internet.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spring Fever

It's at the point of the Chicago winter where I forget that sometime, relatively soon (I hope), it might look like this again:

 (I took these photos at the Chicago Botanic Garden last year.)

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: "Friend Sorrow"

Oh, Internet, how I have missed you! Today's poetry slam is coming to you about six hours later than originally planned, as I have spent my entire day trying to connect to the Internet.

I have now spoken to numerous Comcast representatives, one person from Apple (who told me he was sorry I had to deal with all this when I was sick—how precious!), and finally, a young man named Praveen at Linksys support who reset my router, and made all my dreams come true. Because we were on the phone for an hour, poor Praveen had to listen to me wheezing, coughing, and altogether sounding pretty horrific. (I have bronchitis, as it turns out.) With complete sincerity, Praveen urged me to drink lemon tea for my cough. I love him.

Today's poem comes to us courtesy of my future sister-in-law Jasmine, who probably thought I completely overlooked it, considering she emailed it to me about three months ago. I was just waiting for the most appropriate time to use it, though. Today is that day.

(Plus, Jasmine has apparently created three separate identities in an effort to follow and comment on my blog, so that warrants some hat tip love, don't you think? I still don't understand why these three identities are necessary, Jazzy, but hey, it gives me more followers, so why not?)

Read the lovely poem after the jump.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

St. Vincent!

I wonder if tonight's show will be like this?

In my chain of annoying events this week, I woke up feeling like crap, which was doubly upsetting because my friend Brad is coming up from Hoosier land for this show. We've had it planned for over a month.

Being my dramatic self, I was convinced I had strep throat, so I went to a CVS clinic, where I was promptly told I had a virus and pointed toward the cold meds aisle. After sleeping for an ungodly amount of daylight hours, I think I'm gonna make it.

So now I will be at the show, drinking ice water or cranberry juice or something, and desperately wishing I had the voice to yell, "I love you Annie!" But at least I don't have strep throat.

St. Vincent "Actor Out Of Work" from Lake Fever Sessions on Vimeo.

I think I might be high on cold meds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Picking Up the (Puzzle) Pieces

Sometimes it seems that when one bad thing happens, 6,000 other bad things happen right around the same time. Now, I’m not trying to be dramatic—these can be minor nuisances, not necessarily life changing events. Yet, still, it seems that sometimes life likes to kick you when you’re down. Some people might call this karma. Some might call it coincidence. And some might call it, well, nothing I guess.

I’m not sure what I’d call it, but I do know it happens.

Example: One night last year I was running late to meet some friends for a concert. I decided to take the bus. Got on the bus, realized I only had a 10 dollar bill, and they wouldn’t take change. Got off the bus and realized I’d gotten off way too early. It was dark, and I was nervous to be walking far alone. For some reason, I was wearing heels, and I never wear heels. One block later, it starts pouring down rain. Monsoon style. I am so soaked that it looks like I just jumped in a pool fully clothed. Oddly enough, the storm only lasts for about 20 minutes. Had I left my apartment on time, I would have missed it entirely. Etc. Etc. Later on that evening, after the concert, I end up having a horrific fight with my boyfriend of the time that, admittedly, was very much my fault.

The next day, feeling guilty, embarrassed and stupid, I told myself that the rainstorm was a warning sign: Don’t go to the concert, Alison! Something bad will happen later! Turn right back around and go home! If it was karma, I reckoned, it was psychic.

Then there was the time in high school when, all in the course of a few hours, I found out my boyfriend was really someone else’s boyfriend, my mother’s lung collapsed, and I ran over an animal in my car. Now, when I tell you the animal was a possum, it might seem silly that I’m including in it this string of bad incidents. But I didn’t care. I had killed a living creature. I'd never run over anything before. I was horrified.

Looking back, I can’t remember the order of these bad things—I just know they all happened, one after the other. Obviously I don’t consider running over a possum remotely close to an equivalent of bad incident as my mom’s lung collapsing, but I remember thinking, What else? What else can the universe possibly throw at me today? Why me?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: "Yeah, but she remembers Chicago"

Orange County Suite
Jim Morrison (from Wilderness, Vol. 1)
Well I used to know someone fair
She had orange ribbons in her hair
She was such a trip
She was hardly there
But I loved her
Just the same.

There was rain in our window,
The FM set was ragged
But she could talk, yeah,
We learned to speak

And one year
has gone by

Such a long long road to seek it
All we did was break and freak it
We had all
That lovers ever had
We just blew it
And I'm not sad

Well I'm mad

And I'm bad

And two years
have gone by

Now her world was bright orange
And the fire glowed
And her friend had a baby
And she lived with us
Yeah, we broke through the window
Yeah, we knocked on the door
Her phone would not answer,
Yeah, but she's still home

Now her father has passed over
and her sister is a star
and her mother smokes diamonds
and she sleeps out in the car
Yeah, but she remembers Chicago
The musicians & guitars
& grass by the lake
& people who laugh'd
& made her poor heart ache

Now we live down in the valley
We work out on the farm
We climb up to the mountains
& everything's fine

& I'm still here
& you're still there
& we're still around

Monday, February 15, 2010

Will I Ever See Your Sweet Return?

" ... maybe I'm too young to keep good love from going wrong / but tonight, you're on my mind so you never know...

so I'll wait for you, and I'll burn / will I ever see your sweet return / oh, will I ever learn

oh lover, you should have come over / cause it's not too late ..."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

That's Enough, John Mayer

Really, John Mayer? Really?

Apparently a "candid" interview with Playboy means John Mayer proves what an asshole he really is.


PLAYBOY: If you didn’t know you, would you think you’re a douche bag?

MAYER: It depends on what I picked up. My two biggest hits are “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Daughters.” If you think those songs are pandering, then you’ll think I’m a douche bag. It’s like I come on very strong. I am a very…I’m just very. V-E-R-Y. And if you can’t handle very, then I’m a douche bag. But I think the world needs a little very. That’s why black people love me.

PLAYBOY: Because you’re very?

MAYER: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’"

PLAYBOY: It is true; a lot of rappers love you. You recorded with Common and Kanye West, played live with Jay-Z.

MAYER: What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.

PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?

MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.
Holy crap. You have "a fuckin' David Duke cock," whaaaaaaat? Your parents must be SO proud, John.

Well, John Mayer, we all already thought you were a douche, but now, thanks to your "candid" interview, I've come to a few more conclusions about you:

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Dear Jameson,

Look, it’s just not working out between us. This has gone on way too long. It’s my fault. Really, it is. I’m willing to accept the blame. Every time I think I'm done with you, I come back again.

But the thing is, I have to stand up for myself. I just can’t do this anymore. It’s not worth it. Sure, you make me feel good about myself at first, but then you just leave me. And leave me feeling like shit. The headache is not worth it anymore. I think it’s best if we just accept this for what it was—a fling. You’re not offering me what I really need. I need someone that’s going to be there for me. Frankly, you just use me whenever it’s convenient for you.

I deserve better. Besides, you’re such a player. I see you, flirting with everyone else at the bar. I can’t compete with that. And I shouldn’t have to compete with that. You never even care that I'm sitting right there! I see what you're doing.

Enough is enough. We're over. I break up.

I'll always love you,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: Aaaand, we're back!

Poetry Slam Tuesdays were going so well, and then I had to go slack off for the last two weeks. But don't worry, we're coming back with a bang. Today's featured poet is my favorite redhead, Miss Abby Hansen!

When I asked if she'd be interested in being a featured poet, I was a little worried she might respond with a big "HELL NO." Luckily Abby is a good sport, so she agreed. And I'm so glad she did!

She sent me a few possibilities, and although I liked all of them, I picked two for today's slam. The first one, "Fall Swiftly," is my favorite; the second, "Tuesday Poetry Slam," is, well ... I think you can figure that out on your own.

Read them after the jump! And make sure to check out Abby's blog for more. Thanks, Abbs, for letting me share!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Rainbow Chronicles are 1!

A year ago today, a young Hoosier girl sat in her kitchen ... and created a Blogger account.

A lot has changed since that first post—and a lot hasn't. I've rambled about my awesomely awkward adventures in Chicago, ranted about magical moments waiting tables, and shared my love of Patrick Swayze to the world. Err, the followers of this blog.

And since it's my blog's birthday, I thought I'd share some of my favorite posts from the last year. Some of these got a lot of comments, some of them got zero. But these are the ones that I either giggled to myself as I wrote them, cringed as I hit "Publish Post" (but then was glad I did), or breathed a sigh of relief after writing.

Et voila, my favorite Rainbow Chronicle moments:
Thursday, June 25, 2009: The New BK Blow Job! I Mean, Sandwich!
Because sometimes, sexism in advertising is just so ridiculous, it's funny.

•Monday, May 18, 2009: Countdown to Schwinn Breeze: 11 Days!
Best birthday present, ever. Now let’s just hope this summer, I’m brave enough to ride it more than 5 times in the city. Plus, this post has
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure clips. And what’s better than that? In fact, here’s another post about Patricia!

Thursday, July 2, 2009: The 4th of July Syndrome
One of my favorite pieces about my mom. When I reread it, I feel comforted and a little sad, all at once.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009: More Magical Moments Waiting Tables
Because this really encapsulates the awkward hilarity that can happen while waiting tables.

Thursday, July 30, 2009: Yet another example of why my pops is the SH*T
My father is the shit. I wrote about it.
•Monday, October 5, 2009: Mondays, Mums, and Mom
This post somehow sums up my frustrations with my job search, my restlessness to be doing something valuable with my life, my love for reading, and how much I miss my mom. Damn, that’s kinda too many topics for one little blog post. I feel a whole lot of feelings. 

Geez. I swear, I didn't just look at the July archive when selecting these. These really are my favorites.

So, what do you think? What were your favorite moments at the Rainbow Chronicles? Tell me about it!

I'd also like to give a shout out to my most faithful follower and commenter: my big brother Jay. You know how I said my dad is the shit? Well, oddly enough, my brother is too.

Now, I know all three of you who voted for Swazye Fest as part of the bday bash will be crying yourselves to sleep if I don't leave you with this:

Oh, Patrick! SWOON! (You're welcome.)

It's been a good year, I think. Please, stick around for another one. I promise you won't regret it.

Alison (AKA "alisoncomposes")

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Best Idea Since Hamm's Beer!

How come none of the Hamm's in my family came up with this idea? Genius.

Counting down the days until Mad Men Season 4 premiere already...

Oh, and in case you're one of the two people reading this blog that is not a family member or friend of mine, I guess I should clarify, my last name isn't actually "composes" -- it is, in fact, Hamm.

Umm, hence the joke.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

First Impressions.

It's been a week of first impressions.

Monday I started a new serving gig, which means the kitties and I will be able to continue to eat and have a roof over our heads. WHEW.

Then Tuesday I took my Broke Ass to the Tribune Tower to get my photo taken for the RedEye Broke Ass project. (Damn, that building is amazing.) Obviously this is all an effort to get my book deal/full-time editorial gig, but I felt a little guilty going in the day after my first training shift at the bar. (Not that guilty though.) The thing is, I've got enough perspective right now to appreciate this new serving gig for what it is—a JOB. That's more than many people have right now, so it would be ridiculous if I didn't value it. 

Today was my third shift at the bar. I was annoyed with myself the moment I woke up today, because I stayed out too late the night before, overslept, and felt (and looked) like crap. Not the best version of myself to go in to a new job. When am I going to learn? Not only am I the "new girl" in a still relatively foreign environment, I am the new girl who is a space cadet, and not a very friendly one at that, because I'm exhausted.

Uggh. I don't know what my fellow employees think of me at this point, but after the lunch shift was over and I took my break (I was working a double), I immediately went to Dunkin Donuts and gulped down a coffee. Hoorah for caffeine, because when I finally got to take tables during the dinner shift, I felt like a more accurate version of myself. (I smiled at people. Some of them smiled back.)

My first impressions of the new job are overall pretty positive, so I can only hope that I've made a halfway decent impression on all these co-workers and managers I've just acquired. If my last job taught me anything, it's that when I'm intimidated or nervous, it comes across to other people (ahem, like my managers) as me being snobby, conceited, or negative (insert other bad adjective here). And that blows. Because even though it shouldn't really matter, I still wish I could have somehow shown my previous boss that my "dirty looks" and "bad attitude" was really just me, intimidated, nervous, and sensitive as all hell. 

I want to make a good first impression this time. But I'm willing to make a good second (and third, or tenth) impression if that's what I have to do. I learned my lesson. If your boss doesn't like you—or thinks you don't like her, so in turn begins to loathe you—work can be pretty damn miserable. No thank you. I'm done with that portion of the Ali show.

It's a fresh start. And it's nervewracking and tough and wonderful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's Official: I'm a Famous Broke Ass.

Well, sorta. Mostly so far I'm just the dweeb in the back of the group photo, not looking at the camera. Check me out.

But hey, it's something! Although in retrospect, probably should have run a comb through my hair after getting off the train and walking several blocks in the snow. Ahh well. Maybe looking frazzled gives me more Broke Ass cred.

Please check out the RedEye's Broke Ass Blog. Then tweet it, Facebook it, MySpace it, FaceSpace it, MyBook it, whatever you need to do. Maybe even get crazy and tell another human about it in a real conversation. The more people who see this, the more chances I have of ruling the world.

Err, getting a writing gig.

Broke Ass Alison

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dear Aziz Ansari, I LOVE You.

If for some reason you're not already, do yourself a favor and fall in love with him too. Aziz Ansari is my favorite comedian right now, and quite possibly my favorite person, EVER.

Why? WHY? This is why:

Just wait till you hear him talk about Kanye and R Kelly in his standup "Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening." If I keep watching it my neighbors are probably going to file a noise complaint for my hysterical giggling.

And then there's Aziz on Parks and Recreation:

In fact, I would have thrown my television out the window after seeing that fucking "Dear John" preview for the 5,000th fucking time in 30 minutes if I wasn't watching Aziz Ansari clips right now. I'm just saying. That preview makes my insides hurt. I'm upset I even linked to it just now.

I mean, there's no need to follow the link. Just turn on your TV. Wait 5 minutes.


Thank you Aziz, for saving my television. Although I think my boyfriend is getting a little tired of me mimicking the R Kelly bit. Because about every 20 minutes, I start belting out this:

"They said, Robert! They said, Roooobert! You've only been doing your show for 20 minutes and it's already getting too freeeeaky tonight!

Do you wanna know what I told em? I said LA do you wanna know what I told em? I said LA do you wanna know what I told em?

I said, I'm a GROWN! ASS! MAN!"